Diocese of Paterson: Priest accused of groping was properly trained

By Peggy Wright
Daily Record
August 10, 2017

Rev. Marcin Nurek in Superior Court, Morristown, on Aug. 9, 2017.

[with video]

MORRISTOWN The Diocese of Paterson on Thursday refuted a suggestion that a Polish priest charged with groping a 13-year-old girl in Boonton may have skipped some training and put on an ordination fast-track.

   Before the accused priest, the Rev. Marcin A. Nurek, 37, appeared Wednesday in Superior Court, Morristown, a former priest who co-founded a company to assist people sexually abused by clergymen led a protest in front of the courthouse. Besides saying he was there in support of the allegedly groped teen, Robert Hoatson said he wondered whether Nurek completed all his training since he only arrived in the United States from Poland in 2015.

Nurek was ordained a Catholic priest on July 1. On Aug. 3, he allegedly followed a group of young girls down a Boonton street, grabbed the buttocks of one girl under her skirt but over her underwear and said she was "sexy." He was apprehended shortly after the encounter and is charged with criminal sexual contact and endangering the welfare of a minor.

Nurek spent six nights in the Morris County Jail before a Superior Court judge Wednesday ordered his release pretrial under special conditions that include having no contact with children and reporting to the court twice a month. Nurek was released from the jail Wednesday night after supplying the Morris County Prosecutor's Office with his passport.

   Richard Sokerka, director of communications for the Diocese of Paterson, said that Nurek completed all educational and programmatic requirements before being ordained. Sokerka said that any suggestion that Nurek was fast-tracked is false.

   Born in Starogard, Gdanski, Poland, Nurek completed novitiate and seminary studies in the Pauline's Order in Krakow, Poland, and Saints Cyril and Methodius Seminary, Krakow, where he also earned a master's degree in theology and a licentiate in Sacred Theology in the Bible, according to background information provided by Sokerka.

   Nurek completed all his seminary education and formation in Poland. Upon arriving in 2015 in the United States on a religious work visa, he lived in Domus Bartimaeus, a "house of discernment" for vocations in Boonton. He was enrolled in English as a Second Language classes at Rutgers University-Newark, the background information said.

  Once he was ordained a transitional deacon, he was assigned to Holy Rosary/Sacred Heart Church in Dover and continued his ESL classes during what is called a pastoral year, according to the background. The pastor of Sacred Heart Church was not available Thursday but a church office secretary referred questions to the Diocese of Paterson. 

   Sokerka previously said that Nurek completed required programs on the protection of children and passed an international background check. 

   Defense lawyer William Ware said in court Wednesday that Nurek will live, for now, at the Bethlehem Hermitage in Chester Township, a sanctuary for religious hermits, where he will be monitored by a monsignor and a deacon. He also is expected to pursue psychological counseling, Ware said.

   The Bethlehem Hermitage and some of its religious residents were victims in 2001 of acts of arson that led to a criminal trial in Morris County.  Richard Joseph Meleski Jr., a layperson who was a previously-convicted arsonist, was hired to live in a cottage at the Hermitage and work as a handyman. In 2001, Meleski set several fires around bungalows, was charged with aggravated arson, and later convicted at trial. 

   While the charges are pending, Nurek has been placed on administrative leave by the Diocese and cannot function as a priest. Superior Court Judge Paul Armstrong on Wednesday also ordered that the Diocese cannot transfer Nurek out of state.

   Nurek had been assigned by the Diocese to start work as parochial vicar of St. Catherine of Siena Church in Mountain Lakes but the assignment was rescinded upon his arrest.



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